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Visit to Thomas Fogarty Winery – Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and some Nebbiolo from a beautiful spot in the Santa Cruz Mountains

At Thomas Fogarty Winery I met with the knowledgeable, friendly and very engaged Marshal White who gave me a good tour of both cellar and vineyards. We also had an extensive tasting including both different vintages and a wide range of vineyards.

At Thomas Fogarty Winery they also experiment with the Nebbiolo grape and I had a chance to try some of their vintages from the barrel. Being a fan of the Nebbiolo grape I found this very interesting and I am excited about their work with the grape. Personally I think their philosophy of how to manage the grape, with a hands-off approach and avoidance of oak influence, is good, and my initial impressions were positive.

A few short notes about how Thomas Fogarty Winery produce their wines

  • They use natural yeast for fermentation
  • The Pinot Noirs age 12 months in oak of which approximately 15-20% new oak.
  • The Chardonnays age 12 months in oak and 6 months in stainless steel.
  • They use approximately 35% whole clusters for the Pinot Noirs.
  • Acidity and alcohol are never adapted artificially and they do not use other additives than as little sulfur dioxide as possible
  • They do not have any certification for the work in the vineyards, but they are inspired by organic, sustainable, and biodynamic practices.

Tasting notes for the wines from Thomas Fogarty Winery

2012 Thomas Fogarty Chardonnay Portola Springs Vineyard

Intense tropical fruit where some sharp pineapple notes dominate but also citrus and some slight oak notes. There is a fresh lime acidity with good precision and this gives a mouthwatering finish to the wine.

2013 Thomas Fogarty Chardonnay Albutom Santa Cruz Mountains

The nose is elegant but rather restrained with fresh stone fruit and some lime. On the palate there are similar fruit notes but also a vibrant lime acidity. This is a very precise and well balanced wine that has a long life ahead.

2013 Thomas Fogarty Chardonnay Langley Hill Vineyard

Ripe pineapple and other tropical fruit notes but also some smoke and floral notes. The acidity is rather soft and with lemon notes. This is a generous and rather broad wine.

2013 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains

High pitched and intense fruit notes with some floral notes as well. Has an acidic attack on the palate but of good quality and it complements the fruit that is rather dense on the palate. Nice personality on this entry level Pinot Noir.

2013 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir La Vida Bella Vineyard

From a vineyard near the coast, with sandy soil.

An abundance of strawberries, raspberries and marzipan on this fresh and rather forward wine. The tannins are very silky and the acidity careful. Straight forward and rather fruity Pinot Noir with a slim profile.

2013 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Mindego Ridge

Planted 2009 with Dijon clone.

Rather dark fruit on this dense Pinot Noir with cherries and some blackberries but also some earthy notes and spices. High acidity and with a tannic bite. This wine has a Gevrey Chambertin touch to it. Will be interesting to see how this vineyard will develop.

2012 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Will’s Cabin Vineyard

This is a rather slim and tight wine with young berry notes of mainly raspberries and strawberries. The acidity is rather high and the fine grained tannins have a sharp bite. Will be interesting how this wine evolves, but it will need some time to integrate. Right now it is slightly harsh.

2014 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Will’s Cabin Vineyard

On both nose and palate the raspberries are in the front seat but there are also darker notes from blackberries, licorice and herbs. On the palate the acidity is soft and with a tingling sensation and the fruit gets a sweet touch. Very pleasant and easy to like Pinot Noir.

2013 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Kent Berry Vineyard

Own rooted Mount Eden clone, planted 1990.

Quite careful nose but still with some dense cherries, blackberries and hints of marzipan. Nice acidity with a cool expression and fine grained tannins with some bite. On the palate the fruit is slightly tart. This wine is rather closed right now but has great potential.

2012 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Rapley Trail Vineyard

This is an open and forward wine with cherries, dark berries and some herbal and spicy notes. The palate shows some fine grained tannic structure and a soft but precise acidity. Generous and easy to enjoy Pinot Noir.

Summary of impressions from the visit to Thomas Fogarty Winery

My impressions of the wines from Thomas Fogarty Winery are very positive. These are well balanced wines with nice transparency, beautiful multi layered fruit notes and good structure. Some of the wines show slight oak notes but these are not particularly dominant. This is a winery that focus much on their great vineyards and they have a rather hands-off approach in the cellar. For me the quality of their Chardonnays was a positive surprise.

The Chardonnays from Thomas Fogarty Winery are rather different depending on which vineyard they are from, but some common denominators are the tropical fruit and the citric acidity. My favorite was the 2013 Albutom Chardonnay that had a rather restrained profile but and amazingly precise and energetic acidity.

For the Pinot Noirs I had a chance to try wines from 2012 to 2014 and from several vineyards, and again the terroir and vintage shine through in the personalities of the different wines. Some general characteristics are a rather dense fruit notes that can range from slightly sweet strawberries to some intense blackberries. The acidity is of good quality and several wines has a clear tannic bite. My favourite was the 2013 Kent Berry Vineyard Pinot Noir.

 

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Visit to Calera – A true legend and part of Pinot Noir history in California

Introduction to Calera

In april I visited the Calera winery. During the visit I also had an opportunity to meet with Josh Jensen who is very friendly but also has strong and firm opinions. We had an interesting discussion about his search for the perfect region for Pinot Noir in California. He tells me that after discussions with friends in Burgundy they agreed that limestone was essential for producing top level Pinot Noir.

Eventually he found some land with a huge limestone deposit, close to Mt. Harlan in the San Benito district and in 1974 he purchased the land. The elevation is 2200 feet, making it one of the highest elevation vineyards in California. When he found the land he immediately knew this was the right place and there was not really any runners-up or other areas he considered before acquiring the property. Still it was a gamble to buy land where no one had planted vines before. The first three vineyards were planted in 1975 and then in 1982 he acquired further land close by which was planted the following years.

Tasting notes for the wines from Calera

2014 Calera Chardonnay Central Coast

Zesty expression with an abundance of citrus but also pineapple notes. There are some notes of flint and oak on the nose but it does not get dominant. Nice, juicy and well made Chardonnay.

2014 Calera Viognier Mt Harlan

For their Viognier they use the older barrels to ensure no oak notes reach the wine.

Layers of fruit notes from lychee, orange, lime and apricot on both nose and palate in this opulent but still balanced wine. For a Viognier the acidity is fresh and mouthwatering and stays in the finish of the wine, where there also is a slight bitterness.

2016 Calera Pinot Noir Vin Gris

An abundance of red fruit where raspberries dominate the palate but where we also get some grapefruit and lime. On the palate there is an explosion of fresh berries and a fresh lemon acidity.

2014 Calera Pinot Noir

This is a nice “basic Pinot Noir” with both red and black fruit and some herbal notes both on nose and palate. The acidity is rather careful but still enough to give some energy to the wine.

2013 Calera Pinot Noir Selleck

Beautiful nose with ripe raspberries, blueberries and some ethereal notes. A dense but not powerful expression on the fruit. The acidity is mouthwatering and the tannins are rather chewy for a Pinot Noir, especially in the finish. This is a masculine Pinot Noir with some attitude and complexity.

2014 Calera Pinot Noir Reed Vineyard

Even though the fruit is rather dense this is a fresh and energetic Pinot Noir. The palate is intense with blackberries, blueberries and some hints of raspberries and some notes of minerals. This is a rather fruit-forward wine with a pure expression.

2014 Calera Pinot Noir Jensen Vineyard

Very intense nose with mainly red fruit and with a dominance of raspberries, but underneath there are some soft dark fruit notes. There is a tannic bite in the finish and a hint of alcohol notes come through. Still this wine gets a precise and energetic expression because of the fresh acidity. A great Pinot Noir that will have a long life ahead.

Summary of impressions from Calera

Calera is truly a legendary winery in California and they have some amazing vineyards, resulting in an impressive line-up of single vineyard wines, especially for Pinot Noir.

Their Pinot Noirs have a rather masculine expression with layers of mainly dark fruit but also a fresh, cool acidity. These are wines truly showing a sense of place in their transparency to the terroir. The fruit notes were denser and darker than I expected but always with a good balance.

The white and the rosé all show an energetic acidity and some young fresh fruit notes. I also like the fresh citric acidity.

My favorites were the 2014 Pinot Noir Jensen Vineyard and the 2013 Pinot Noir Selleck.

 

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Tasting of Domaine de la Côte, with winemaker Sashi Moorman

In March I attended a wine tasting with Sashi Moorman at Arlequin Wine Merchant in San Francisco. Sashi had brought wine from three different labels where he is the wine maker. These are Sandhi, Domaine de la Côte and Evening Land Vineyards. The first two are based in Lompoc in Santa Barbara and the last is in Oregon.

In this post I just present notes for the Domaine de la Côte wines and I will later publish one from Sandhi and one from Evening Land where I also have visited.

Summary of impressions from Domaine de la Côte

The Pinot Noirs from Domaine de la Côte has intense, pure and rather dense fruit notes, but also a slight herbal and spicy expression. The texture is silky and smooth and they have nice acidity with some tension. These are very elegant and precise wines that can be enjoyed in their youth but also should have a long life ahead.

My favorite was the Bloom’s Field 2014.

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Tasting notes for Domaine de la Côte

2014 Domaine de la Côte Pinot Noir Estate Sta. Rita Hills

An abundance of strawberries but also some nice raspberry notes, combined with fresh menthol. Nice silky texture and a precise acidity on the palate. This is a precise and elegant Pinot Noir in a rather straight forward style.

2014 Domaine de la Côte Pinot Noir Bloom’s Field

100% whole clusters.

Pure fruit notes from raspberries and strawberries combined with some cherries on the nose. On the palate we also get orange peel and some fresh spices combined with a juicy lime acidity. I also find some earthy notes and smoke, especially in the finish. This Pinot Noir has both some energy and depth in a good balance.

2013 Domaine de la Côte Pinot Noir Bloom’s Field

Intense wine with an abundance of herbal notes, smoke, mushroom and dark fruit from boysenberries, cherries and blueberries. On the palate there are clear notes of eucalyptus and some oranges. The acidity is rather soft but still with some tension. This is a dense, complex and slightly heavy Pinot Noir.

2013 Domaine de la Côte Pinot Noir Memorious

50% whole cluster.

Nice red fruit from strawberries and raspberries combined with some darker cherries. On the palate there is a fresh lime acidity and some fine grained tannins but also some notes of pepper and herbs. Well balanced Pinot Noir that is already approachable.

Visit to Tyler wines – Wines from Burgundian varieties with attitude and energy

Tyler Winery was not a producer I knew about when I went to Santa Barbara, but their name kept being mentioned when I spoke to different people in the business, especially when I described my preferences.

Tyler Winery sources all their grapes today, but they recently purchased some land and have planted 26 acres, so they will make estate bottling in the future. When sourcing fruit they look for close cooperation with the growers and they specifically search for vineyards with old vines.

Today they produce approximately 5000 cases in 12 different bottlings.

In the tasting I tried three Chardonnays and four Pinot Noirs, all but one was from the 2015 vintage.

Some short facts about Tyler Winery

Chardonnays

  • All Chardonnays go through malolactic fermentation.
  • Natural fermentation
  • Fermented in barrels
  • Minimal stirring of the lees.
  • Aging: Approximately 20 percent new oak for 10-12 months.

Pinot Noirs

  • Open top fermenters
  • Natural fermentation
  • 15-20 percent stems.
  • No cold soak or extended masceration.
  • Aging: 15-20 percent new oak. 10-12 months.

Tasting notes for the wines from Tyler Winery

 

2015 Tyler Chardonnay Dierberg Vineyard

Pineapple, flint and yellow apples on both nose and palate. The palate is rather tight with young fruit and a racy citric acidity, mainly from lemon. This wine is slightly dominated by lemon notes on the palate today but with time this should calm down.

2015 Tyler Chardonnay Zotovich Family Vineyard

Fresh wine with a nice minerality and some young stone fruit, apricot and a hint of yeast notes. The palate is slim and has a razor sharp lime acidity and again some green apples. This wine has an energetic expression and an amazing precision. Makes me think of Chablis.

2015 Tyler Chardonnay La Rinconada

Rather shy nose but still with some layers in the fruit notes with soft tropical fruit and lime. Will probably open up more with some time. The acidity is citric and juicy in the expression and on the palate we also get som peach and minerals. This is a pretty and elegant Chardonnay.

2015 Tyler Pinot Noir Block Five Dierberg Vineyard

Rather dense and dark fruit notes with blackberries and blueberries, but also an abundance of herbal notes. Slight sweetness on the palate combined with some dark minerals, cherries and spices. This is a dense and dark pinot noir but still with a coolness and rather herbal expression.

2015 Tyler Pinot Noir Bentrock

This wine has a dense and chewy profile but without sweetness and jammy notes. There are also some earthy notes and mushrooms combined with some dark minerals and herbs. The tannic structure has firmness and the acidity is cool and well needed to make sure the wine stays energetic. This is a very dense and complex Pinot Noir, especially considering that this is a producer that avoids overripe fruit.

2015 Tyler Pinot Noir La Encantada

Fresh fruit from both red and dark fruit where the red fruit is young and fresh. I get raspberries and strawberries combined with some cherries but also some sweet notes from marzipan. The acidity is slightly citric and there are some velvety tannins. For a dense wine it has a rather fresh expression and some herbal notes appear in the finish.

2014 Tyler Pinot Noir Old Vine Bien Nacido Vineyard

This wine has a very Burgundian profile with restrained but fresh fruit, mainly from raspberries, but also some earthy notes. The texture is extremely silky with a precise but careful acidity that adds a coolness to the wine, especially in the finish. This is a very well balanced wine that should develop beautifully with age.

Summary of impressions from Tyler Winery

My impression of Tyler Winery is that they produce great Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but that these wines need some time in the bottle to calm down. Today the 2015s have some rough edges, but they show good potential, so some patience will pay off. It should also be mentioned that I tried these wines when they were babies.

The 2015 Pinot Noirs from Tyler have dark and dense fruit notes, but not jammy or sweet, and some of them have a touch of earthiness. The fruit gets balanced by a fresh acidity, making sure the wines are never overpowered. With this denseness combined with a rather low alcohol level I would have guessed they had extra time for extraction before or after the fermentation, but this is not the case. I like the complexity of the wines and they will be interesting to follow when they age.

The Chardonnays have a very acidic profile with an abundance of citrus, making them juicy and mouthwatering. The fruit notes are rather careful and there are some mineral notes in some of the wines.

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Visit to Dunn Vineyards – The legendary producer from Howell Mountain

Introduction to Dunn Vineyards

The estate was founded in 1979 by Randy and his wife Lori and they released their first commercial vintage in 1981 (this was the 1979 vintage). Since then they have gained a loyal following and Dunn is one of the names everyone brings up when I ask for recommendations of Napa-based producers matching my preferences for more transparent wines. This is a family business involving their children Mike and Kristina and they own their vineyards around Howell Mountain. They produce one Cabernet Sauvignon from Howell Mountain, but also one “Napa Valley” bottling that also includes some fruit from the Napa Valley floor sourced from other vineyards. The exceptions to this rule are the vintages from 2009-2011 that was produced only by Howell Mountain fruit.

When it comes to their vineyards it is worth mentioning that in spring 2014 they replanted their older parcel (Trailer Vineyard) and in the 2013 vintage this fruit was bottled as a single vineyard wine that is not yet released. So the 2012 Howell Mountain is the last vintage including the old vine fruit from Trailer Vineyard.

If you want to read more about their vineyards they have a good presentation on their website: http://www.dunnvineyards.com/vineyards/

During my meeting I met with Ben Hiza (working with all types of tasks, depending on season:), Mike Dunn and briefly with Randy. Their welcoming was amazingly friendly and you can definitely feel that this is a family business with an atmosphere of openness and jokes. We talked about everything from children (I had brought my one year old daughter to the meeting) to politics, differences between Scandinavia and the US, etc., but we also had some time to talk about vineyards, wines and the work in the cellar:)

A few short notes about how Dunn Vineyards produce their wines

  • The fruit is crushed and destemmed
  • Fermentation takes between 10-13 days
  • They press very lightly
  • Malolactic fermentation is done in barrel
  • They use 100% new oak
  • Wines are racked every 6 months
  • The wines are not allowed to go above 14% in alcohol. They take measure in the vineyard to ensure a lower alcohol level, but if needed they will do a de-alcoholization
  • The grapes from Howell Mountain has higher level of tannins than grapes from the Valley floor, but they never try to adjust this. Therefore their wines often are considered rough in the youth
  • Picking decisions are still made by Randy and it is based on tasting the grapes

Tasting notes for the wines from Dunn Vineyards

2011 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain

Restrained but intense wine with fresh currant notes, especially on palate but also on the nose. There are also some notes of cedar, blackberries and menthol. The acidity is incredibly cool and vibrant and tannins are fine grained but still very grippy. The wine is already approachable but will definitely improve with age and has a long life ahead. Would be very interesting to taste in 15 years from now.

2012 Dunn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain

On the palate this is a rather lush wine with layers of both dark and red fruit and we find currant, blackberries and some blueberries. The nose is more careful than the palate but we find the same notes. There is a juicy and slightly broad acidity and tannins are sandy and very present. At the moment there are some oak notes but they are well integrated in the wine. I would expect this wine to integrate more with time and it is a great representation of Cabernet Sauvignon.

2010 Retro Cellars Petite Sirah

Very dense and pure fruit notes of mainly dark fruit, containing blackberries, cherries, blueberries. The tannins are grippy but of good quality and there is a juicy acidity. This is a rather fruity and dense wine but still with good balance.

Summary of impressions from the visit to Dunn Vineyards

We only tasted two wines from Dunn and one made by Mike Dunn under the name “Retro Cellars” (http://www.retrocellars.com). Still, these two wines was a great demonstration in how great Napa Cabernet Sauvignon can be. The wines are fantastically well balanced and shows both energy and complexity. I have heard several times that the Dunn wines are rough and not approachable in the youth, but my opinion is that the two Howell Mountain wines I tasted are surprisingly approachable already, but they will require some decanting and a food pairing. My personal favorite of the two wines was the 2011 that showed more precision and attitude.
In the future I hope to be able to taste some of the older vintages from Dunn Vineyards. If you are in the Copenhagen region on the 18th of March you have a unique opportunity to taste the vintages between 1979 and 2013 at one of Scandinavias best restaurants, Geranium. Unfortunately I am still in the US then, so I will not be there.

 

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Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 tasting

In November I attended a Napa Valley tasting at K&L Wine merchants in San Francisco. The theme was Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 and we tasted some high profile producers and wines.

I have to be honest and say that I am not the greatest fan of powerful Cabernet Sauvignon with high levels of alcohol and oak influence, and this tasting did include several wines in this category. The wines we tasted had been double decanted 3 hours before the tasting. Below are my tasting notes.

My favorite wine in the line up was Dunn, mainly because of a strong personality and profile, but I think Lewelling, Joseph Phelps and Mondavi also are worth mentioning.

2013 Joseph Phelps Insignia

Dense but rather well integrated palate with cedar, blackcurrant, graphite, blueberries and blackberries but also vanilla from oak and a hint of barnyard notes. There are also notes of menthol, mint and an ok acidity that adds freshness. At the moment the nose is very muted but it show similar notes as on the palate. Rather inky finish with a salty touch. This is a very dense and heavy wine but not completely without balance.

2013 Caymus “Special Select” Cabernet Sauvignon

Thick heavy fruit on the palate with an abundance of Ramey Cabernet Sauvignon 2013blackcurrant, cedar, plum and vanilla from oak. More careful on the nose but it has a heavy denseness. There is an acidity that adds some freshness, but it is not enough to create a balanced wine. The wine is completely dominated by the heavy fruit notes that almost gets jammy. Extremely generous but over the top according to me.

2013 Robert Mondavi “To-Kalon” Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Rather soft fruit on the nose, dominated by darker fruit like blueberries, but also with clear nots of toasted oak that encapsulates the nose. Denser fruit on the palate but also an inkiness and salt, and in the finish there is some bitterness from oak. The wine start rather soft on the nose but it get more sharp with acidity and inkiness along the way. The wine has some elegance but unfortunately the oak does not give it a chance to shine.

2013 Cardinale Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Nice fruit core on the nose, dominated by black fruit like Cardinale Cabernet Sauvignon 2013blueberries and blackcurrant, but also some oak notes. An explosion on the palate with an abundance of fruit but also a rather energetic acidity which creates a mouthwatering expression of the wine. After a while some more peppery notes appear and In the finish there is more ink and saltiness. This is a very powerful and heavy wine but still manages to keep an ok balance.

2013 Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red

Very ripe and heavy fruit on the nose but also some menthol, spices and oak notes. Very jammy and almost thick on the palate with an abundance of blackcurrant fruit and leafs but also green paprika. The finish leaves a rather inky impression. This is extremely heavy and concentrated wine that does get rather overwhelming and I lack something to balance all the fruit.

2013 Ramey Pedregal

A very fruit forward wine with an abundance of Pahlmeyer Cabernet Sauvignon 2013blackcurrant and plums but also some tobacco and vanilla from oak. The palate has a rather fresh acidity and nice fruit behind all the oak and we get some rather chewy tannins. The alcohol also comes through on the palate together with ink, cedar and some menthol that adds a little freshness. The finish gets rather dominated by oak.

2013 Dunn Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon 2013There is a slightly funky barnyard note on the nose but it does not get dominant and we also find earthy notes, nice blueberries, spices and blackberries. Good balance on the palate with restraint but dense fruit, an earthiness, mushrooms, cedar and a precise and energetic acidity that carries the wine well. After a while som blackcurrant appear and stays with us in the finish. This wine will be interesting to follow over the years.

2013 BV Geogres de Latour

Rather closed on the nose but still with a restraint denseness with notes of cherries, cedar and blackberries. Inky and slightly salty on the palate but with a fresh acidity. Rather sharp at the moment, and will need some time to get balanced. Some young but mouthwatering blackcurrant notes appear after a while on the palate and stays in the finish.

2013 Lewelling “Wright Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon

Pure brimming fruit notes dominate the palate, mainly from blueberries, cherries, blackberries, cassis but also some herbal notes appear after a while. A juicy fresh acidity drives the palate and combines well with the fresh fruit. Some inkiness appear in the finish together with warm alcohol notes. Nice fruit driven wine with a fresh acidity.

2013 Araujo “Altagracia” Cabernet Sauvignon

80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot and 4% Malbec.
Soft ripe dark fruit, marsipan, vanilla from oak, cedar and some black currant on this rather forward nose. Again dense on the palate and with a soft acidity. The finish is surprisingly short for such a dense wine and there is an inkiness. Big and generous wine.

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Weingut Wittmann – Stellar performance in 2015

In July we visited Weingut Wittmann and was guided both in the vineyards and in the cellar by the Cellarmaster Georg Rieser. We also had the chance to taste a large range of their wines.

We spent quite some time visiting their different vineyards. Georg got very en gaged when we talked about how they work in the vineyards to produce the best possible grapes. He pointed out that this is where the great wines are created, not in the cellar.

weingut wittmann vineyard

Our daughter Iva showed great enthusiasm during the visit:)

Weingut Wittman perform green harvest but the timing and the amount removed depends on the vintage. In a cold vintage they do an early green harvest to ensure faster maturation of the grapes. Another important task in the vineyard is the removal of leaves around the grapes. They need to avoid getting grapes wet, since this could result in botrytis, but they also want to reduce the amount of sun directly on the grapes. Therefore they cut more on the side that has morning sun, and less on the afternoon side since this is more intense. They perform several harvests per vineyard to ensure clusters/berries are picked at optimal ripeness.

Weingut Wittman has been biodynamic since 2004 but before that they had a long history of organic viticulture that started in 1980. By 1990 they where 100% organic.

weingut wittmann vineyardIn the cellar they have some beautiful large oak casks that are over 100 years old. Some of the Großes Gewächs (GG) wines are stored in the old casks but some are in the stainless steel vats. Georg also comments on the importance of maintenance of the old wooden vats to ensure freshness. They do have some barrique size barrels but these are used for red wine and for some Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay. New wood barrels are never used for the Riesling wines since they do not want any wood notes on the Riesling.

Since some years back they use a sorting table for selection before the grapes are pressed. This is one more initiative to heighten the level of quality in the fruit that goes into the wines. Gravity is used as much as possible instead of pumping when moving the must from pressing to fermentation and then on to storage. As Georg puts it: “The wine has to be handled gently”.

Wittman uses natural yeast and spontaneous fermentation in most cases, but sometimes they need to add some yeast to ensure the process finishes in time. If possible they do not want the wine to be fermenting during the winter. In colder vintages with less opulent fruit they use longer maceration times to add depth to the wines.

They vinify different harvests and plots separately and then later make blends based on the quality and personality of the wine and vintage. They have a tasting with more than 90 different wines where the staff and the family takes part, and based on the impressions and opinions they decide on a blend for the vintage. This means that there are no pre-decided vineyard sections for each type of wine.

The wines we tasted at Weingut Wittmann

2015 Wittmann Riesling trocken

Slim nose with yellow apples and tropical fruit. Fresh citric acidity with minerals and a grippy and almost a bit salty expression.

This is an energetic and precise wine and a very good entry level Riesling.

87

2015 Wittmann Niersteiner Riesling trocken

This is an Ortswein from vineyards with mainly red slate, situated close to the Rhein.

Ripe notes of yellow apples, apricot, an abundance of tropical fruit but also some fresh young green apples. Rather broad acidity but with good structure and grip.

The wine has a generous and juicy expression.

87

 

2015 Wittmann Westhofener Riesling trocken

This is an Ortswein from vineyards with mainly limestone.

Tight fresh fruit nose with apples, pears and some slight stone fruit.  Very pure and precise acidity that also has a juicy expression.

Mouthwatering and well balanced wine.

91weingut wittmann vineyard

2014 Wittmann Westhofener Riesling trocken

Rather ripe tropical fruit notes, apples and some petroleum. Juicy but not very precise acidity that stays in a rather long finish.  A rather generous and opulent wine.

87

2015 Wittmann Westhofener Aulerde Riesling Großes Gewächs

The soil in Aulerde has less limestone than Kirchspiel and Morstein.

Rather broad and open nose showing tropical fruits like apricot and lychee. The acidity is juicy and stays in a long finish.

This wine has a very generous expression and good structure.

91

weingut wittmann vineyard

2015 Wittmann Westhofener Kirchspiel Riesling Großes Gewächs

Compared with Morstein, the Kirchspiel wines are usually more open and ready to drink early and is often showing notes of grapefruit. The soil is similar to Morstein.
Very fresh nose with white stone fruit, lots of lychee and some young apricot and pears.

The acidity is amazing with a very energetic and firm expression and an abundance of minerals. Some fresh fruit notes balance the acidity well.

At the moment the wine is slightly dominated by the acidity but it should develop fantastically with time. A great wine with fantastic potential.

95

2015 Wittmann Westhofener Morstein Riesling Großes Gewächs

The wines from Morstein usually has a lot of citrus and acidity. The soil has clayish marl and limestone on the upper layer and more limestone in the subsoil.
There are multiple layers of fruit on this dense and concentrated nose, but it never gets overly dominant. We also find some very slight flint and yeast notes and white flowers.

Juicy and mouthwatering acidity with a grippy expression showing both lime fruit and lemon. Again the fruit is dense and complemented by some herbal notes.

The wine already has a good balance between the acidity and the fruit and it manages to combine generosity with elegance. A truly fantastic wine.

96

2014 Wittmann Weissburgunder Weißer Burgunder Reserve

Aged in new oak barrels of 600l.

Fresh young apricot dominated a rather opulent nose. There are also oak notes on both the nose and palate but they do not get dominant. Good acidic bite and minerals on the palate where we also find some nice fresh fruit.

This is a rich and charming Pinot Blanc.

88

2014 Wittmann Chardonnay Reserve Trocken

Rather slim palate with tropical fruit and som notes of oak.

The wine has a rather energetic acidity and juicy pineapple notes on the palate. Will require some more time to find the right balance.

89

2015 Wittmann Riesling Auslese

Residual suger of 120.

Rather slim on both nose and palate with young tropical fruit and honey, combined with a rather juicy lime acidity.

Fresh Auslese with good precision, but rather one-dimensional.

87

2015 Wittmann Westhofener Morstein Riesling Auslese

Residual suger of 125.

Lots of young stone fruit and pineapple combined with honey and floral notes.

Energetic Auslese with a grippy acidity and a good mineral structure.  Should develop fantastically with time

91

2015 Wittmann Westhofener Morstein Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel

A rather spicy nose with stone fruit, herbs, apricot, bees wax, white flowers and lime.

Dense and multi layered palate with similar notes as on the palate but also a fresh acidity and mineral structure.

Fantastic Auslese that should be kept in storage for a long time.

93-94

Overall impressions of Weingut Wittmann in 2015

We were very impressed with Wittman’s wines from the 2015 vintage. They have a complexity and depth in combination with a precise and very energetic acidity. The Kirchspiel and Morstein GG wines are truly amazing and we would recommend anyone to stock up on these, but also the other wines keep a very high quality level.

One last note

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Pinot Noir from three different countries

Some months ago we had a small Pinot Noir tasting including four wines from three different countries. The lineup included wines from New Zealand (Ata Rangi), two from classic Burgundy (Domaine Marquis d’Angerville, Louis Jadot) and Germany (Enderle & Moll). It was a focus on outstanding classic vintage of 2010, but in the german case we didn’t have one so here (unfairly) a 2014 was added to the bunch. At the end of the evening Domaine Marquis d’Angerville stod as a clear winner, but we where also reminded of how different expressions you can get from the Pinot Noir grape.

Tasting notes for the wines

Pinot Noir from Ata Rangi, Domaine Marquis d'Angerville, Enderle & Moll, Louis Jadot

2010 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir

A rather herbal expression on the nose, but also with peppers, alcohol, orange peel, under vegetation, blackberries and some oak.
Similar on the palate where the wine is rather heavy for a Pinot Noir and there is an oak bitterness to the finish.

89p

2010 Domaine Marquis d’Angerville Volnay 1er Cru Champans

Dense and rather dark fruit with blueberries, blackberries, oil paint and liquorice on the nose. These notes are then complemented with iron, dark minerals, floral notes and hints of marzipan on the palate. Good acidity that carries the rather dense palate and ensure a fresh and energetic expression.
The wine has great balance and good complexity.

93p

2014 Enderle & Moll Pinot Noir Buntsandstein

Extremely floral and full of raspberries but also some conserved cherries and a very slight barnyard smell. Mouthwatering fresh raspberries on the palate combined with a precise but careful acidity with a slight harshness in the finish. There is also a fine grained tannic structure.
This is a forward and expressive wine with lots of energy, but unfortunately it is also rather one dimensional. Great wine for the summer evenings.

91p

2010 Louis Jadot Beaune 1er Cru Theurons

There are rather sweet raspberry notes on the palate in the beginning but after a few hours there are also notes of darker fruit.
The body is rather slim, with a fresh acidic expression.

87p

Emrich-Schönleber – A reliable producer shining in the 2015 vintage

We met with Frank Schönleber, who is a decisive man, clearly spoken and with strong opinions. He takes great pride in their production and will definitely be a leading influence in the Nahe region for many years to come.

The estate is very focused on Riesling wines and during our visit we only tried Riesling and narrowed in mainly on the dry wines. During the meeting with Frank we both talked about the development in the region and the ways of working at Emrich-Schönleber. The trend both at Emrich-Schönleber and among other producers in the region has been to move from sweet wines towards dry riesling. At the peak for sweet wines their production was approximately 75% sweet Riesling wines, but today it is more or less the opposite about 25%.

We talked some time about the development in Nahe and the surrounding regions. One important change was in the regulations and split of vineyards. Until 1971 the vineyards in the region were split up in much smaller sections but because of difficulties to market the wines a reform where vineyards where grouped together to larger vineyards was implemented. In some cases this has resulted in very large vineyards with many different levels of quality and soil, thereby producing wines of different expression. This is a challenge for the consumer. One unfortunate example is the Frühlingsplätzchen vineyard that today is on both sides of Monzingen, where the section on the east side is more similar to Halenberg (also on the east side). Because of this Emrich-Schönleber produces wines that are a mix of Halenberg and grapes from the east part of Frühlingsplätzchen, but these wines cannot be named after the vineyards.

In the cellar Emrich-Schönleber uses spontaneous fermentation for some of their wines, including the Großes Gewächs (GG) wines, but for the more basic Riesling wines they add yeast. The logic behind the decision is that they want to achieve a more classic Riesling expression on the basic wines, while they allow the GG and single vineyard wines to develop a more personalized and complex character, letting the terroir of the vineyard shine through. For the spontaneous fermentation their experience is that it is better to use wood vats instead of stainless steel vats.

To reach top quality in the fruit they control the yield in the vineyards. The preference is to do this proactively for example by letting grass grow between the rows, instead of using green harvest which is a more reactive action.

One important project at Emrich-Schönleber has been the recultivation of a section of Halenberg. We had the opportunity to try three different vintages of this wine made from rather young vines. This is a wine that, of course,  will continue to develop as the vines get older, but in the 2015 vintage our impression is that the wine took a large step up in quality. We look forward to following the development where eventually these grapes will go into the GG bottling for Halenberg.

The wines we tasted

2015 Emrich-Schönleber Riesling trocken

Slate soil.

Slim fresh nose with some white stone fruit. This is carried over to the palate where we also get a sappy, fresh acidity that drives the wine. Good entry level wine with a slim and precise profile.

85p/100

2015 Emrich-Schönleber Riesling Lenz

Mainly grapes from Frühlingsplätzchen.

Fresh stone fruit and hints of white flower on this charming and seductive nose. Acidity is precise and pure and there is a slight sweetness in the background.

The wine has a fresh citric lime finish. A generous wine that is easy to enjoy.

87p/100

2015 Emrich-Schönleber Riesling “Mineral” trocken

From soil with stony quartz slate.

The nose is very slim and slightly citric. Not much generosity here. On the palate it is all about the acidity and the strong mineral bite. We also find lemon, lime and some careful stone fruit.

Energetic but very slim and citric driven.

87p/100

2015 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Riesling “Fruhtau” Trocken

From 20-25 year old vines.

Apricot, young pineapples and some lime notes. On the palate we find a fresh mineral bite and some fresh lemon notes.

The wine has a fresh finish. In total an elegant but careful and tight wine.

88p/100

2015 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Halenberg Riesling Halgans Trocken2015 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Halenberg Riesling Halgans Trocken

To a large extent from the vines on the steep part of Halenberg that was recently recultivated.

Initially some flint notes but then also tropical fruit, mainly stone fruit and some fresh minerals. Pure and precise nose. Zappy lemon acidity with a nice mouthwatering juiciness that stays with us in the finish. Dense and fresh tropical fruit on the palate.

This is a great Riesling wine with both energy and character.

92p/100

We tried this wine a second time in the eventing and it developed fantastically during the hours it was open.

2014 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Halenberg Riesling Halgans Trocken

The wine has some residual sugar (5,7).

The nose shows petroleum and ripe, but still rather careful, fruit notes dominated by pineapple. Juicy but slightly broad acidity combined with apples and tropical fruit on a generous and enjoyable palate.

Long and juicy finish.

88p/100

2011 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Halenberg Riesling trocken

The wine that in later vintages is called “Halgans”.2011 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Halenberg Riesling trocken From a warm year with low acidity.

Rather open and warm nose with ripe tropical fruit and some petroleum notes. Same style is carried over to the palate where we also find some French nougat notes and hints of sweetness. The acidity is rather broad and juicy.

A wine with a more ripe and warm character.

87p/100

2015 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen Riesling Großes Gewächs2015 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen Riesling Großes Gewächs

Red slate, gravel and red loam. Age of vines are between 15 and 60 years.

Beautiful nose with apricot and other stone fruit, some apples and a hint of herbs. A both elegant and complex nose with great freshness.

Same notes are found on the palate where we also have a pure and precise acidity with both lime and lemon. The wine is energetic and mouthwatering and should age very well.

94-95p/100

2015 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Halenberg Riesling Großes Gewächs

2015 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Halenberg Riesling Großes GewächsStony blue slate and quartzite soil, producing small and concentrated grapes.

Dense and complex nose with layers of fruit where pineapple, apricot, lime and lemon are most apparent.

The acidity is rather racy and has lots of lime and lemon notes. This will probably calm down with time.

The wine is already well balanced but has a slightly more austere impression than the Frühlingsplätzchen GG at this time.

There is an amazing potential in this very complex wine, but you will have to be patient.

95-96p/100

2013 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen Riesling Spätlese2013 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen Riesling Spätlese

Rather open and ripe nose with saffron, tropical fruit and some sweet notes. Fresh but rather careful lime acidity and some white flowers on the palate.

Pleasant wine with good personality, but it lacks some precision.

88p/100

2013 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Halenberg Riesling Spätlese

Slim and precise nose with some light tropical fruit and apples. Precise and fresh lime acidity combined with fresh fruit.

This is a pure and fresh Spätlese in a classical style.

91p/100

2013 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen Riesling Auslese

2013 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen Riesling AusleseNotes of honeysuckle, white flowers and some melon. Careful tingling acidity which is just enough to carry the sweetness. On the palate we also find saffron and lime together with some floral notes.

This is rather slim Auslese that manages to stay fresh even with low levels of acidity.

93p/100

Summary:

The wines of Emrich-Schönleber are defined very much by their precise acidity and the pure and fresh fruit. We would consider them to be school book examples of top level German Riesling with a very classical style.

In a year where some producers get very high levels of fruitiness Emrich-Schönleber has managed to keep a very tight profile but still with fantastic fruit notes. We where very impressed by the wines and would recommend them to anyone looking for Riesling wines that can develop well with age.

Domaine François Chidaine 2014 – Mastering both Vouvray and Montlouis

François Chidaine has built an impressive estate from his modest start in 1989 when he bought his first vineyards and took over 3 hectares from his father. Today he controls approximately 37 hectares in the Loire region, where Montlouis is dominant with 20 hectares but they also have 10 hectares in Vouvray and 7 in Touraine. His position is quite unique since few winemakers are well established in both Montlouis and Vouvray. The expansion into Vouvray came when François got the chance to take over responsibility for Philippe Poniatowskis vineyards in Vouvray and later he took over ownership. This transition was not completely smooth, but have resulted in an impressive collection of vineyards in both villages. More recently they have also bought some vineyards in southern Spain.

Quite early in his career François has been moving over to organic winemaking and eventually biodynamic, and since 2003 the Domaine is certified biodynamic. The wine is aging in 600 liters barrels of which approximately 10 percent are replaced each year. They seek to avoid getting wood notes in their wines.

In general the wins from Vouvray have a bit higher levels of acidity than the wines from Montlouis.

2013 Sauvignon Touraine

Classical Sauvignon blanc but not over the top with nettles. Fresh and pure wine with a very precise acidity. Simple but very likable and easy drinking Sauvignon blanc.

84p

2013 Touraine Rosé

Another easy drinking wine which shows quality and freshness but not complexity. An abundance of red, almost sweet, berries. Some tannic structure to give backbone to the wine.

85p

2010 Vouvray Petillant

Quite closed on the nose but still some very fresh citric notes and some exotic fruit in the background.

The wine opens up a bit more on the palate where we find grape fruit, lime, some anise and mineral notes. The bubbles are fantastic, small and soft.

This wine is quite careful in the beginning but then shows more and more personality. A quality Petillant.

91p

2012 Montlouis Methode Traditionnelle Brut

The nose is quite expressive and fruity, showing several exotic fruits.

The taste is also quite fleshy with similar fruit and some notes of bread. This is a generous sparkling wine.

90p

2013 Montlouis Clos du Breuil Sec

From vines are 50-90 years old. Residual sugar less than 1 g/l.

Fantastic freshness on the nose with light citric notes, exotic fruit and some hints of ginger.

The wine is very acidic and there is less fruit on the pallet where we also find some hints of Chenin blanc wool and fresh minerals. In the finish the acidity takes over, and in general the acidity needs to calm down a bit before the wine gets balanced.

This is a precise and fresh wine that should be stored for a while before opening.

91-92p

2012 Vouvray Les Argiles Sec

This wine is a blend from different vineyards and the terroir has clay and sand.

In this wine the fruit takes a quite dominant position on the nose, showing pineapple and other exotic fruits, but also notes of flint.

The pallet contains the same fruit but also has ha high level of acidity, especially in the finish.

A wine, which is quite fleshy and generous.

91p

2012 Vouvray Clos Baudoin

Soil of clay and limestone with vines which are approximately 70 years old.

Fresh and cool nose with lime and pineapples in a nice balance but also some flint and minerals.

The exotic fruit takes a further step forward on the palate and we also find some surprising hints of oak.

This wine shows a good balance between fresh coolness and fruit.

92p

2011 Montlouis Les Choisilles

Flint in the soil. Gives minerals and acidity.

The nose is quite dense, both from fruit but also from honey in the background. Lots of pineapple and peach but also some hints of smokiness.

Generous wine where the acidity takes a back seat to the fruit. The character is probably mainly an effect of the vintage, which produces fruity wines.

88p

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2011 Montlouis Les Bournais

Quite young vines planted around 1995, in a very attractive terroir of limestone.

The nose is fruity and expressive with lots of tropical fruit and some minerals in the backgrounds.

Very pleasant and precise acidity that combines well with the pineapple and other tropical fruits we find together with lime. The crisp acidity stays in rather long finish.

The Les Bournais is a vibrant wine where the fruit and acidity both competes and complements each other.

92p

2011 Franc de Pied Les BournaisFrançois Chidaine

Same vineyard as the last wine but from ungrafted vines, i.e. not grown on American root stocks. These vines have a very low yield. They still have phylloxera in the ground so this is quite risky.

The wine is very concentrated, not only with fruit. We find yellow apples, tropical fruit and minerals on this complex nose.

The palate is very much in sync with the nose, but has slightly less fruit. The alcohol feels rather present in the wine but with this level of density the wine does not get unbalanced. Very long long finish with fruit and minerals.

This is a fantastic wine with high level of complexity and it will be exiting to follow the future vintages.

93p

2011 Montlouis Clos Habert

Seductive nose with honey, lime, grape fruit, pineapple, and fresh minerals.

Even though the level of sugar is quite low for a Tendre, it comes trough clearly on the palate, together with the fantastic fruit and minerals. There is a slight grape bitterness in the finish.

This is a complex wine with lots of personality, especially on the nose.

91p

2010 Montlouis Les Tuffeaux (Demi-Sec)

This wine is a blend of different vineyards.

Rather careful in the beginning and the nose almost has a wateriness to it. After a while some flint, minerals and exotic fruit appear.

Fresh young pineapple, an abundance of lime and minerals and a fantastic citric acidity to back up the sweetness in the wine

This is a slim and very precise wine that need some time before it opens up completely.

91p

2007 Vouvray Le Bouchet

A quite heavy nose with honey, flint and some exotic fruit in the background.

The acidity is a bit harsh and not as precise as we would hope for. We also find honey and some citric notes.

The Les Bouchet has a strong and generous personality, but lacks some precision and elegance.

89p

François Chidaine

2010 Montlouis-sur-Loire Moelleux

Residual sugar at 40 g/l.

Very aromatic nose with an abundance of honey that transfer over to the palate where we also find high levels of acidity. These are the dominant expressions of the wine and they compete for dominance but fortunately it ends in a tie and the wine is rather well balanced.

This is a generous wine with great personality. It would work well together with food.

92p

2010 Vouvray Moelleux

Residual sugar at 70 g/l.

Dense nose with lots of honey and some ripe exotic fruit.

The acidity is amazingly precise and saves the wine from being too heavy which could have been a problem considering the density. There is much of everything in this wine.

92p

François Chidaine

2009 Montlouis-sur-Loire Les Lys

This wine is only produced when they have botrytis.

Here we find lots of apricot and some quite fresh honey on both the nose and later on the palate. There is a tingling acidity which complements the quite dense taste of honey. A complex and generous wine.

94p

Summary

François Chidaine has an amazing range of vineyards with great terroir making a tasting of their range good introduction to the region. His wines show great precision and often with strong personality. This is definitely a producer worth following closely.